SNOW DRIFTS: Pioneers of Freestyle Snowboarding

Snow Sphere presents Dave Scoppa, the boy from down under, who joins us with his new regular column “Snow Drifts”. Every month he’ll delve deep into his bag of snowboarding knowledge to tell us snow story. This month, we go back in time and take a look at those who came before us.

It’s easy to get lost in the world of snowboarding. Today’s riders are pushing the limits to unbelievable levels and every new season brings bigger airs, more spins, longer rails and lots of new faces. With every new face there is a new competition and a new sponsor just waiting to sign up the latest snowboard superstar. But stop for a minute. Where was snowboarding just over a decade ago?

Before the 21st Century revolution there were no super pipes, no Shaun White, no corporate sponsorship, no Olympic dreams or X-Games super-stardom. There were however, pro snowboarders riding just has hard as the kids today, holding their own. These riders may not have been the first to strap on a snowboard, but in the early 90s they lay down the foundations for the freestyle Mecca that has engulfed the snowboarding world we see today. Here are some of the names that have gone down in snowboarding history…

Victoria Jealouse

No female rider rode more vertical in the 90s than Canadian Victoria Jealouse. A solid campaigner with Standard Films for over a decade, Victoria has cemented her position as one of the greatest female riders ever. Holding her own (and not as the token female section either) at a time when male riders were constantly pushing the sport to new levels, Jealouse was there with them ripping down 60 degree descents in Alaska, dropping cliffs, straight-lining chutes and leaving a mark that made the guys look average year after year. Her passion and skills have landed her a spot on the Burton World Team for over a decade!

JP Walker

JP entered a little later than the rest of the names here but it must be remembered that he started a new craze with rails and urban jibbing that simply was not around a few years earlier. No other rider has pushed the limits of rail riding like JP. He is an innovator and has an unbelievable bag of tricks. Solely focussed on progressing his own riding talents, JP has single-handedly changed the sport forever. He took the street style of skating to his hometown in Salt Lake City, and in doing so launched an urban assault in winter towns across the US and the world. Armed with a shovel, a few friends and a pair or car headlights, JP led the offensive and changed the idea of rails forever. The possibilities became endless and JP was at the forefront of pushing the boundaries which set the standard of rail riding that we do today.

Peter Line

Cab 10s, Cab 9s. switch bs 7s, Switch McTwists. These are tricks that Peter Line was stomping back in 94. Yes, that’s no typo. Peter Line is one of the most technical riders ever. Unleashing countless switch tricks before most riders were doing them natural, Line developed a high status of respect early on. Switch spins weren’t his only gift. He was also responsible for corkscrew spins, backside rodeos (switch in the same season as regular of course!) and then he threw in a few butters into jumps just to show how technical he was. He is the switch king and is responsible for many of the tricks we see today.

Jamie Lynn

Jamie Lynn has a talent that cannot be learnt and training cannot improve – his style is his and cannot be reproduced. Sorry, it can’t. He has arguably the greatest method ever. In the early 90s Jamie Lynn was a technical magician launching into huge spins with a smooth style that puts riders of today to shame. Whether in the park or the backcountry, Jamie Lynn, with his no holding back attitude, set the standard for what we enjoy today. His hard work and commitment to riding has made him legendary in the eyes of many of his peers and his fans.

Daniel Franck & Ingemar Backman

These two were the first group of Euros to crack the US Snowboard market and they earned their spots through their innovative and amazing ability to tweak everything. Daniel Franck is an incredible pipe rider who was a victim of the Olympic judging system when he was robbed of a Gold Medal at the ’98 Nagano Olympics. Ingemar Backman started the highest air craze with his ridiculously massive method back in the mid-90s at Rikgrassen in Sweden. However, his unique style was around years before that. He is the tweak-master.

Terje Haakonsen
Terje floats over gum trees down-under

Terje Haakonsen

A household name in the snowboard community for over a decade and deservedly so. In the 90s, Terje was unbeatable, His accomplishments included 3 x World Championships, 5 x European Championships, 3 x US Opens, Innsbruck Air & Style Champion years over, 5 x Baker Banked Slalom, (including qualifying one year riding switch!), Olympic-frowner, and founder of the Arctic Challenge. Terje is the one of the most respected riders ever. Period. His innovative style in the pipe laid the foundation for the airs of today. He has an amazing ability for tweaks and ridiculous hand plants that don’t even make sense in slow-mo. He is one of the few riders to have a legitimate trick named after them, ‘The Haakon Flip’. He was the first rider to have his own video, Subject Haakonsen (in fact he had two, as Haakon Faktor followed soon after). In recent years, Terje has moved away from the pipe and into the backcountry where he continues to impress all those who watch.

Craig Kelly (1966 – 2003) RIP 

Of course, I can’t leave out the most famous freestyle snowboarder of all time. The snowboard world mourned his passing when he was tragically killed in an avalanche near Revelstoke, BC in January, 2003. A true snowboarding pioneer, Craig Kelly had a special love for the mountains and this was passed on to many through his dedication to snowboarding. A 4 x World Champion, 3 x US Open Champion and 3 x Baker Banked Slalom Champion, Kelly was the original freestyle maestro. His skills, ability and passion were an inspiration to many as these comments prove:

Jake Burton – “I can’t think of a bigger loss to the sport….he is the rider who put professionalism into team riding and then later demonstrated his passion by dedicating his life to the sport.”

Terje -“He was my inspiration before I met him. When I finally met him he turned out to be the best possible role model. I don’t know anybody else that loved mountain riding as much as he did. Even though Craig has left us, he will still be my greatest mentor’.

All these riders had a massive impact on myself when I learnt to snowboard and I still enjoy watching their footage today.

Terje Haakonssen and Dave Scoppa
SnowSphere writer Dave Scoppa poses with the legendary Terje Haakonsen in Australia
Dave Scoppa has spent countless seasons in the ski resorts of both hemispheres where he works as a snowboard instructor. He is currently back in Australia, anticipating the start of another winter shredding gum tree lines through Aussie powder.